il·​lu·​mi·​nate | \ i-ˈlü-mə-ˌnāt How to pronounce illuminate (audio) \
illuminated; illuminating

Essential Meaning of illuminate

1 : to supply (something) with light : to shine light on (something) Candles illuminate [=light] the church. the part of the moon illuminated by the sun
2 : to make (something) clear and easier to understand A university study has illuminated the problem.

Full Definition of illuminate

 (Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

1a(1) : to supply or brighten with light
(2) : to make luminous or shining
b : to enlighten spiritually or intellectually
c : to subject to radiation
d archaic : to set alight
2a : to make clear : elucidate
b : to bring to the fore : highlight a crisis can illuminate how interdependent we all are
3 : to make illustrious or resplendent
4 : to decorate (something, such as a manuscript) with gold or silver or brilliant colors or with often elaborate designs or miniature pictures


il·​lu·​mi·​nate | \ i-ˈlü-mə-nət How to pronounce illuminate (audio) \

Definition of illuminate (Entry 2 of 3)

1 archaic : brightened with light
2 archaic : intellectually or spiritually enlightened


il·​lu·​mi·​nate | \ i-ˈlü-mə-nət How to pronounce illuminate (audio) \

Definition of illuminate (Entry 3 of 3)

: one having or claiming unusual enlightenment

Other Words from illuminate


illuminator \ i-​ˈlü-​mə-​ˌnā-​tər How to pronounce illuminate (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for illuminate

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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Examples of illuminate in a Sentence

Verb the part of the moon illuminated by the sun A university study has illuminated the problem.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Lamps light streets and fireworks illuminate the night sky with beautiful, colorful designs. Pavithra Rajesh, The Christian Science Monitor, 3 Nov. 2021 Owners could see the pressure warning light, ABS warning light, or MIL warning light illuminate on the dashboard before the fire starts, or possibly smell or see smoke. Colin Beresford, Car and Driver, 9 Mar. 2021 The lights on her tree illuminate her most prized ornaments. Vanessa Yurkevich For Cnn Business, CNN, 11 Dec. 2020 The Hidrate Spark water bottle features a ring of colorful lights that illuminate to remind you to drink up, and connects to an app on your phone that tracks optimal water intake. Justin Fenner, Robb Report, 14 Dec. 2021 We all ooh and ahh over the (at least in my memory) huge lights and decorations that illuminate every house and the snow that blankets each lawn along our drive. Better Homes & Gardens, 29 Nov. 2021 The citrine bracelet radiates sunny and rich gemstone colors that illuminate the wearer day and night. Kyle Roderick, Forbes, 9 Nov. 2021 The kettle will be donned with 26,000 LED lights that will illuminate downtown. Emma Stein, Detroit Free Press, 7 Nov. 2021 Ken Yager, a veteran climber, founded the Yosemite Climbing Museum after spending decades collecting artifacts and photos that illuminate the history of climbing in the park. Los Angeles Times, 30 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Animated characters sing along as trees and snowflakes illuminate to the beat. Patrick Connolly,, 17 Dec. 2021 The details of the dispute illuminate major hurdles that countries around the globe will face in eliminating coal from their energy mix—and the need to develop local solutions to set an ambitious and actionable path toward decarbonization. Baker Institute, Forbes, 29 Oct. 2021 If sentiments seem easily derived in a few stories, in the best ones, mysteries like Theodosia's illuminate larger truths about love, loyalty and the persistence of memory. Star Tribune, 8 Jan. 2021 The problem is that, while the careful study of history can provide policymakers with powerful insights, incongruous comparisons can just as easily obscure as illuminate contemporary challenges. Richard Fontaine, The Atlantic, 3 Oct. 2017 Throughout the film, interviews reveal the pervasive abuses committed against infants, children and teens as well as illuminate groups and people who are working to stop it. Kimber Myers,, 28 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'illuminate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of illuminate


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1b


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1600, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for illuminate


Middle English, from Latin illuminatus, past participle of illuminare, from in- + luminare to light up, from lumin-, lumen light — more at luminary

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Time Traveler for illuminate

Time Traveler

The first known use of illuminate was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

7 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Illuminate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for illuminate


il·​lu·​mi·​nate | \ i-ˈlü-mə-ˌnāt How to pronounce illuminate (audio) \
illuminated; illuminating

Kids Definition of illuminate

1 : to supply with light : light up He clutched Rose as a dazzling blast illuminated the lobby…— Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck
2 : to make clear : explain His speech illuminated the subject.

More from Merriam-Webster on illuminate

Nglish: Translation of illuminate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of illuminate for Arabic Speakers


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